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Building a Band Program from the Ground Up

Photo by Curioso Photography

The summer often feels like band director musical chairs. Positions open, directors shift, new directors assume their first positions. You may find yourself in a position with a small band program that needs growth. Here are a few tips (or reminders....) to keep in mind if you find yourself in a new high school program with a small band.

Developing Relationships with Students

One of the most crucial steps in building a successful band program from a small start is developing strong relationships with your students. Your students need to feel valued, heard, and respected. Take time to get to know each student individually. Learn their names, interests, strengths, and challenges. Attend their events outside of band when possible, and show genuine interest in their lives. Building these relationships fosters a sense of community and belonging, which can significantly enhance their commitment and enthusiasm for the band.

Inclusivity and Willingness to Teach All

To grow your band program, you must be willing to teach anyone who comes through the door. Embrace all students, regardless of their initial skill level or experience. Encourage them to join and ensure they feel welcome. This inclusivity can lead to a diverse and vibrant band community, and it allows you to identify and nurture hidden talents that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Building Relationships with Administration

Gaining the support of your school's administration can take time. It might be a few years before you build the necessary rapport to secure their full backing. Patience and perseverance are key. Demonstrate the value of your band program through consistent effort, positive student outcomes, and visible progress. Communicate your vision and goals clearly and professionally, and involve the administration in your plans whenever possible. Their support can provide essential resources and recognition for your program.

Learning from Mistakes

Mistakes are inevitable, especially in the early stages of building a band program. View these mistakes as learning opportunities rather than setbacks. Be willing to adapt and meet your students where they are. Flexibility and resilience are vital traits for a successful band director. Analyze what went wrong, gather feedback, and make necessary adjustments. This iterative process will strengthen your program over time.

Embracing Growth

Small band programs often experience significant growth compared to larger programs. This growth can be incredibly rewarding as you see the tangible results of your hard work and dedication. Celebrate each milestone, no matter how small, and use these achievements to build momentum and motivate your students.

Transitioning from a Long-Term Director

When taking over a program previously led by a long-term director, it's often wise to avoid making big changes immediately. Respect the traditions and systems in place while gradually introducing your vision. Plan for the long term and focus on incremental improvements. Success in building a band program requires patience and perseverance.

Delegating Responsibilities

Empowering students by giving them responsibilities can enhance their sense of ownership and commitment to the band. Delegate tasks that you don't "have to do" to capable students. This not only lightens your load but also helps students develop leadership skills and a deeper connection to the program.

Engaging with Feeder Programs

To ensure a steady stream of new talent, be actively present in the feeder programs. Visit middle schools and elementary schools, conduct workshops, and build relationships with younger students. Encourage your current students to mentor and assist in these programs. This engagement fosters continuity and enthusiasm for joining the high school band.

Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment

Your band room should be a safe haven for all students. Establish a culture of respect, where yelling and disrespect are not tolerated. Empower students by giving them a voice in decision-making processes and encouraging positive behavior. A supportive environment allows students to thrive and express themselves freely.

Wishing everyone a safe and musical year!


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